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May Is The Month Of Puzzle Games And It Rules

Animal wells, laser eyes, and duck detectives, OH MY!

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A woman walks through a splintered red maze
Image: Annapurna Interactive

At the beginning of this year, I could not have predicted how jam-packed May would be when it came to games. The biggest release on the calendar was Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, which we now know is good, but beyond that, it didn’t feel like May would be a huge month for games Then the month started, and it quickly became clear that springtime 2024 was full of great titles and a bevy of top-notch puzzle games.

May started off innocently enough, with no real sign of the game buffet that was to come. Then, on May 9, the vibe shifted with the release of two titles that earned themselves a place in the zeitgeist — Animal Well and Crow Country. The first, a deceptive Metroidvania from developer Billy Basso is an absolute shock. It’s not that anybody thought the game would be bad, it’s just that nobody realized the game hadn’t revealed its true self. While Animal Well is a typical Metroidvania requiring you to explore the map as you gain new abilities, there are additional gameplay layers that are more puzzle-focused—one is about hunting down hidden eggs across the map, and the other revolves around finding rabbits with the help of other players.

A bunch of eggs sit on a display case
Image: Bigmode

SFB Games’s Crow Country isn’t as groundbreaking as Animal Well, but its loving ode to the puzzle-centric gameplay of the original Resident Evil offers a different variation on the same theme.


Cut to one week later and Simogo’s Lorelei and the Laser Eyes helped solidify that May would be a special month. It’s a twisting puzzle box set within a spooky mansion that’s steeped in French New Wave cinema influences. The long list of puzzles require logical leaps on the part of the player and a penchant for looking at problems in unconventional ways. It’s a brain teaser that stretches your problem-solving just as much as it does your narrative comprehension.

This parade of releases closed out with Paper Trail and Duck Detective: The Secret Salami on May 21 and 23, respectively. Paper Trail is a straightforward rush through origami-inspired challenges that task you with folding the in-game map, while Duck Detective is a parody of the noir genre in the form of an Obra Dinn-like. And that right there is the key to what makes all of these releases so wonderful: variety.

Duck Detective introducing himself to a sheep
Image: Happy Broccoli Games

For those who love deeply cerebral, almost masochistic puzzles that take hours and lots of collaboration to solve, there is Animal Well and Lorelei. For those who like their puzzles a bit simpler and with a side of action, Crow Country is a passable Resident Evil clone. The beauty of Duck Detective is its comedic tone. Finally, Paper Trail is pure mechanical puzzle fodder. That’s a lot of options for fans of the genre itching to sink their teeth into something, and they are all different enough that you can enjoy them all without getting burnt out. And to top it all off, each title is relatively short compared to the dozens of hours-long RPGS that are so often the focus of the AAA scene. Lorelei and Animal Well are the longest and can take closer to 20 hours to finish but the likes of Duck Detective can be finished in an afternoon.


With June approaching it’s impressive to see how fantastic May’s releases were, especially considering all of these titles are indie games. Even more impressive is that these are just the puzzle games! May also saw the release of Ninja Theory’s cinematic sequel Hellblade 2, the narrative powerhouse that is 1000xRESIST, and more. Even as I write this the month has more to give, with Sekiro-inspired Metroidvania Nine Sols set to release on May 29. Thankfully June will be quieter so we can all catch up on May’s release. Actually, I’m remembering Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree releases on June 21 so…. I guess use your time wisely until that takes it all up.